Interview: Actress Sandra von Ruffin On Today’s Greek Films

© Pascal Rohé

Actress Sandra von Ruffin is the co-initiator and festival director of the Hellas Filmbox Berlin film festival. Here, she writes about what characterizes today’s Greek films

Watching films – that always happened a little differently in Greece, just like going to a concert is a little different there. Each serves the purpose of entertainment and exchange, but at the same time is also an opportunity to put yourself into the scene of the auditorium. You can eat, smoke, and drink, talk amongst yourselves, go in and out, you judge the performers on their appearance, their manner of expression, you identify with them and assume their style – should one fit your personal approach.

The interpersonal drama plays an essential role, and even in how it’s performed on screen. And interest doesn’t remain limited to the films produced in their own country, but rather includes all of international filmmaking. “Radical, real, emotional” – that’s what you could call contemporary Greek cinema. And that’s also how I see the program of more than 60 films from and about Greece that we’ll be showing starting the 18th of January, 2017 in Berlin. Films with sociopolitical relevance and artistic characteristics that reveal the countless facets of the country, its people, and also its secrets.

Contemporary Greek filmmaking is causing an international stir because, with the eruption of the economic and social crisis, it’s produced previously uncharted characters: dysfunctional family relationships, shattered livelihoods, depression, isolation, brutalization, hunger, helplessness, and hopelessness, but also a strong commitment to sensitivity and, more often than not, a really quirky sense of humor – to suddenly see all of that made the subject of Greek cinema, and at a high caliber, was quite a surprise and often even a shocking experience.

The beautiful, honest, strong Greek women of the country’s films appear to have almost completely vanished. Enough with the cliché of the figure as a kind of natural element that lives on the sea or in the mountains – female filmmakers are now revealing an uncompromising woman: defiant, unbridled, angry, headstrong, closed, fragile, and far from the ideal of the Greek mother and hostess. They are women and girls who are often torn between continuing what life had determined for their mothers and grandmothers, what their childhood had determined for them, and what is inherent to a strong and rapidly changing world. The Greek woman has been sucked into the undertow, created pressure, stress, and has decisions to make: What does “homeland” mean and what can continue? What is the meaning of autonomy, of foreigners, of identity…

Women, who can bear life, refuse or avow, are witnessed as murderers and saviors, as frightening “unsettlers” and the unsettled in need of protection. For the most part, they know what they want – above all, confrontation and discussion. Greek women express themselves. The public will experience it when they see the films: women, filmed by women, escorted, costumed by women, sent to the public by women.

Men could say that Greek women are making their own cinema, their own performance, their own politics. With them, you get a discussion partner you can look in the eye, and you begin to remember their names. “I feel like a stranger no matter where I am, and that’s how I feel more secure,” says Athina Rachel Tsangari, one of the most important directors in Greece today. She is the paradigm of the Greek woman who makes films, the ones people remember. Films that apply to the world; a world in which one no longer knows if there is still a home in Greece. Because Greek woman don’t feel at home anymore.

The next Hellas Filmbox Berlin festival will take place from the 18th until the 22nd of January, 2017 at Babylon, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 30, 10178 Berlin.
More information about the festival can be found on the Hellas Filmbox website. You can also follow Sandra von Ruffin’s adventures through her website and her Instagram.